This book made for an interesting book group discussion but I can't say I particularly enjoyed reading it. It seemed to lack flow and was more of a diary of events than a novel, in my opinion.
It's a bit of a cast of thousands, nineteen according to Wikipedia, and they were confusing to grasp at first. Thank goodness for the Kindle's ability to search back for key-words.
All the characters come from the same poverty stricken alley in Cairo in the 1940s. Everyone strives for something better but no-one really achieves their aim. Two characters go off to fight for the British Army and that brings them wealth initially, but it is curtailed by the end of WWII. The factory owner is doing well but his health lets him down...and so on...one tale of woe after another.
I was horrified by one character, Zaita, the cripple-maker. Who would choose to be blinded or crippled just to make them a more effective beggar? They were then obliged to pay Zaita a cut of their earnings in return for his services.
I think it was the extreme nature of the characters that resulted in my failure to connect with them. Each one was more of a cartoon character than someone from a book.
However, I'm sure I now have a better understanding of life in Cairo at that time and I don't regret the time spent reading the novel.